Movies

Brie Larson: Exciting to play strong, complex woman in Kong

Oscar winner Brie Larson says roles for women in Hollywood need to be less simplified

Amid the testosterone-heavy cast and the giant beast at the centre of Kong: Skull Island, Brie Larson and Jing Tian lent a feminine touch to the proceedings.

Just don't expect them to be Ann Darrow-like damsels in distress.

In the movie, which opens here tomorrow, 27-year-old American actress Larson, who won the Best Actress Oscar last year for the 2015 drama Room, plays Mason Weaver, a war photojournalist and peace activist who joins Captain James Conrad's (Tom Hiddleston) expedition to Skull Island.

Chinese actress Jing, 28, most recently seen in the Matt Damon period film The Great Wall, takes her second stab at Hollywood here as San, a biologist working for the secretive organisation that transports the team to Kong's habitat, who is dedicated to the pursuit of truth during her mission.

Here is an interview with Larson:

When you were approached about Kong: Skull Island, what was it about it that drew you in and made you want to be part of it?

Well, there is always the big picture aspect of a project and the individual character, and both have to feel personal to me.

On the big picture scale, the story felt like an allegory for the way we treat nature and how we value it, and how we value other human beings as well.

It also deals with war and the animal nature that is within us all. We are so far removed now from that part of ourselves. We feel the need to overcome it in some ways.

It is also a very visual and tactile film. Aside from the obvious CGI moments, this is not an overly CGI movie.

We shot on location all over the world to capture the natural beauty of this planet.

I think it lends a great case for keeping certain things protected - nature cannot talk, so we have to listen as best we can.

And on a personal level, I just like to see more women getting their hands dirty and expressing themselves about what it is to be a woman, which is something I don't see as much as I would like to in movies.

It seems that women characters have to be either the toughest one in the room or super soft. And I think that it is more complicated than that.

I will always go back to Princess Leia in Star Wars as my shining reference point. She is someone who is intelligent, beautiful and poised, and also not to be messed with.

On the big picture scale, the story felt like an allegory for the way we treat nature and how we value it, and how we value other human beings as well

So to be asked to play a strong and complex woman in a movie that is so much bigger in scale than the independent work I have done, and will be seen by more people, is really exciting.

I wanted to give a strong voice to this character, who is a working woman in a man's world, and to show that there is a way to lead that does not have to look like a man but is still effective and still powerful.

That, for me, was a really fun part of this job.

I found it interesting to step into that and think, 'How loud do I have to raise my voice? How effectively can I communicate with just presence and being there?'

Weaver finds something of a kindred spirit in Hiddleston's character Conrad. Was it true that even at the first table read, the two of you had an instant connection?

It is not like that all the time, but that is what those moments are for.

Meeting someone for the first time and doing improv together can be a bit like puppies playing - you have to really get comfortable with each other before you can play.

But we are both such open people and were so committed to what we were doing that it was just incredible right off the bat.

Tom's an incredible actor. He is so classically trained yet also so open to just throwing it all out the window.

We had this one running joke all the way through production and would always crack each other up.

Well, now you have to tell us what it is.

Oh, no (laughs). Well, it was a side movie we were making: Kid Kong. It is about Baby Kong. I think it would go over well (laughs).

Speaking of Kong, what effect does encountering something as extraordinary as Kong have on Weaver and what is their relationship in this film?

They have a special relationship. Kong is the biggest thing on the island, yet he does not choose to use his power in a way that's harmful to her.

I think that is a real turning point for Weaver... She feels she has to do whatever she can to make sure that this thing is protected.

I think that is why a sort of mutual understanding forms between her and the big guy.

She encounters bugs, snakes during filming

Chinese actress Jing Tian talks about all things Kong.

What appealed to you about Kong: Skull Island?

It was the story, which is powerful and touching. Of course, the idea of sharing the screen with Kong was exciting.

What was it like working with Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston?

Brie is a brilliant and dynamic actress. She is also caring and warm, and we enjoyed sharing fun stories. Tom is a dedicated actor. His tireless work brought out the best in everyone. He is so much fun to chat with. I remember he asked me to try doing a British accent, but it was so hard (laughs).

The movie was filmed across three continents. What were some memorable moments?

This has been the most I've travelled on a film. We started in Hawaii, then travelled to Australia and completed production in Vietnam.

In Australia... a huge caterpillar landed on my head, and a snake was just under my seat. That was scary. Shooting in remote areas of Vietnam was challenging, but all the locations have extraordinary views and beautiful landscapes.

What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

Audiences can expect non-stop action. This version of Kong, combined with incredible visual effects, will present a unique experience to audiences. In previous films, Kong was an adult. We have never experienced (a growing) Kong until now.

I feel so honoured to be able to share the story of how Kong becomes the king everyone is familiar with today.

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